There are so many things to consider.
For example, important documents — official and personal.
• Is there an existing will or power of attorney?
If so, where are they located?
• Are they all in one place for easy access and organized in some form?
• Or are they stuffed here and there, in this drawer or that cabinet or
hidden in a shoebox somewhere?
• You’ll need to locate those documents, which give you or
someone else permission to act for the older person.
HOW WILL SENIOR SERVICES BE PAID FOR?
In addition to the wills and powers-of-attorneys, you’ll need to determine the senior’s
financial situation to help with the selection of the caretaker decision process.
Include checking and saving accounts, certificates of deposit, pensions and other retirement benefits, Social Security, investments, real estate owned and other personal property assets. Also include any credit card, loan or other outstanding debts when making the financial assessment.
Personal health insurance, long-term-care policies, Medicare supplemental insurance to pay for the “gaps” in Medicare coverage, life insurance and home and auto insurance. Is there any eligibility for veteran’s or disability benefits?
Include Social Security and driver’s license numbers, military records, birth, marriage and divorce certificates, tax records, passport number, appraisals of valuables. You should also include lockbox and home security system codes, spare keys, codes to locks and firearm location and papers. And—pet records.
Should contain physicians’ names, prescription information and any health issues. Remember to locate and organize ALL important documents, or at least place them in one specific place, and tell someone where to find them.
ASSESSMENT OF HEALTH
Your assessment of the senior’s health should include observation of balance, signs of fatigue or sleeplessness, vision or hearing difficulties, signs of depression, dementia and the ability to take medications correctly.
Is he or she able to perform basic daily activities like dressing, bathing, use of telephone, use of toilet, rising from a chair or negotiating stairs, shopping, preparing meals, driving safely and housework?
What about his or her appearance and hygiene issues — does the senior maintain personal cleanliness, oral care, combed hair, trimmed nails and wear clean and appropriate clothing?
MATCHING THE CARE TO THE NEED
Armed with the health assessment by yourself and the senior’s physician and the important personal and financial documents, you can now consider lifestyle and senior services options available. Senior care facilities vary greatly as to the types of services provided and other amenities, such as activities offered — whether included or paid for separately — and, many times, the beauty of the facility or grounds. The most common types of facilities, based on the help required as the needs change, include:
ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY:
Allows for continued independent living in a house or apartment. Residents have freedom to come and go at will, driving themselves or going on group outings with transportation provided. Planned activities can include dancing, bingo, exercise classes, swimming and so forth, along with meals and some care provided.
RESIDENTIAL CARE HOMES:
These are actual private individuals’ homes providing assisted living to only one to three clients — help with daily living activities, meals and some medical care. Residents should be able to manage their daily personal care as far as eating, bathing, shopping, dressing and medications, in general. However, the senior can have visitors at any time, and they may come and go as they please, signing in and out.
Provide full-time medical care, meals, housekeeping, laundry and organized activities. It may be possible to have these services provided at home, but registered nurses usually aren’t required to help with meals, housework and laundry. Several government and insurance programs may be available, depending upon the patient’s needs. However, if the patient needs 24/7 care, medical and otherwise, a nursing home is most likely the best option.
Offers a specific type of care by specially trained nurses and caregivers to terminally ill patients at home, in a hospital or at a hospice facility. Included may be some light housekeeping, meal preparation, laundry and medication management.
CONTINUING CARE RETIREMENT COMMUNITY:
Offers the convenience and security of housing options that can meet needs as they change, from independent living to assisted living to nursing facilities and hospice care without the patient’s having to locate and then move from one type of facility to another.
SPECIFIC DISEASE-RELATED FACILITIES:
These places concentrate on care for those suffering from diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc., because of the unique care required.
EASING THE TRANSITION
You can help your loved one make the transition more easily by being sensitive to his or her preferences and feelings. Try to find ways to allow her or him to maintain some control over the future. After all, if home care is no longer an option for whatever reason, it will necessitate a move into a new residence, which will become “home.” It is a life-changing transition from living an independent, self-sufficient life, to a facility where he or she will be dependent upon others —strangers —for the help needed, whether there is a major health issue or inconveniences such as the inability to drive, shop, cook and perform other daily functions of life.
Keep in mind that both you and your senior may suffer physical and mental stress, feelings of frustration, exhaustion, anger, sadness or resentment. However, if you and your parent(s) or other loved one plan for the future, your job will be easier, and he or she will be much more likely to have personal wishes fulfilled.